EVENING Marshals have been brought in to Bradford city centre to help make it a more welcoming and safe place after sundown.

The Marshals, who operate between 4pm and 11pm Monday to Saturday, are organised and paid for by Bradford Business Improvement District (BID), which is funded by more than 600 levy-paying businesses and organisations.

They will patrol the BID area and work alongside the retail, hospitality and leisure businesses which operate between those hours to help support the evening economy and provide a reassuring visual presence.

The move comes amid concern over the impact anti-social behaviour can have on the perceptions of those shopping in the city centre. Only last Wednesday, police were called to The Broadway at 6pm to reports that a member of security staff had been assaulted while dealing with an outbreak of anti-social behaviour involving a group of youths.

Elizabeth Murphy, the BID’s Evening and Night Time Economy (ENTE) co-ordinator, said: “This is a really important time of year for shoppers and leisure-seekers as well as for the city centre businesses who serve them and it’s important that everyone feels welcome and safe during the dark evenings.

“With many businesses open for longer hours and late night festive shopping opportunities, we want to make the experience as pleasant as we can for all concerned and the marshals will play an important part in that.”

The team will provide a meet-and-greet service to visitors to the core retail areas and they will be expected to be friendly and helpful at all times. They will assist the public with directions and information, paying particular attention to attractions such as the Alhambra, St George’s Hall and the National Science & Media Museum when events are on, as well as to the main transport hubs.

They will also assist shops with calls for shoplifting and anti-social behaviour and have direct links to CCTV and the Neighbourhood Policing Team.

The marshals all have Security Industry Authority (SIA) training and can help with defusing situations where needed. They will also be reporting back to the BID office over any issues they might need to forward to partner organisations such as the Homeless Outreach Partnership (HOP) and Bradford Council.

BID chairman Ian Ward said: “We aim to keep the marshals with us until the end of the panto season when we will review their role and decide whether there is a strong enough business case to extend it further.

“Our primary aim it so ensure that visitors to the city centre – be they local residents, tourists, workers, shoppers or leisure seekers – can enjoy a pleasant and safe time when they’re here.

“They will be our eyes and ears on the ground to reassure everyone they can go about their Christmas shopping without concern and concentrate on visiting their favourite shops, bars, cafes, restaurants and visitor attractions against a backdrop of Bradford’s fabulous festive lights in an enjoyable atmosphere."